Cool Places - UK Travel Guides - The Best of Britain

Rye

If Doctor Who crashlanded the Tardis in Rye the great timelord would be hard pressed to say what century he was in. The road signs say this is ‘1066 Country’ but there are Ford Mondeos parked on the streets. Rye’s a slice of a parallel England that’s hard to pin down. Is it a medieval port town? A Hitchcock film set? Or is it plugging a hole in space time? Well, in fact it’s all of these things. A small town atop a sandstone promontory that was once a strategic port, the place has retained its cobbled streets and higgledy-piggledy houses and now looks like old England pickled in a jar.

History

Rye began life as a fort town in the 13th century based around what is now Ypres Tower, pronounced with typically English disdain for the niceties of French as ‘wipers’. The French burned down the town in 1377. In those days it was Rye-on-Sea and the town was a strategic port, one of the famous Cinque Ports of medieval times, though it didn’t sink so much as see its river silt up so much it started to grow new land. The town’s now two miles from the sea across a flat marsh and harbours nothing more ambitious than day yachts and small fishing craft.

The town’s charms have attracted an assorted bunch of misfits, from writers like Daniel Defoe and Henry James (who wrote one of his tortuous novels here) to the likes of Spike Milligan and Tom Baker who was himself the time-travelling Doctor Who in the 1970s, when Rye looked very much like it does today – timeless.

Travel guides uk - cool places